Jan Gat

The title of this story is in Dutch and translated in English it means 'Jan Hole'. It is a nickname for the most famous statue in Rotterdam: 'The Destroyed City' by Ossip Zadkine.

It commemorates the disastrous bombardment of Rotterdam on the 14th of May 1940 by which the complete center of the town was totally destroyed. The Germans decided to bombard Rotterdam because they wanted a quick victory in Holland and Belgium to march on against the French. By bombing the city they forced the Dutch to surrender quickly. In only 15 minutes 97.000 kilo of bombs were thrown on the center, but the fire that followed lasted for days and caused great damages. Approximately 800 people were killed and 80.000 people became homeless.

The bronze statue is a human figure with a distorted face and his hands thrown desperately in the air. It has no heart which symbolizes the destroyed heart of the city. Thats why the people of Rotterdam named it 'Jan Hole'. Another nickname is 'The Employer' or 'The Boss'. The story behind that is, that when the statue was revealed in 1953, some dockworkers were present and when the curtain was pulled away, one of them said: 'Hey, he looks just like my boss. He has a big mouth, no heart in his body, and his hands are all wrong!'

Now when parents bring their children to the statue, they tell them why 'Jan Hole' has no heart and what that meant for Rotterdam. For years and years the city had no heart and it was a big open space. Thats why the people of Rotterdam are hard workers, the heart of the city had to be rebuilt. And the legend says, that when a bird will built his nest in the heart of 'Jan Hole', the city will be rebuilt and Rotterdam will have his new heart.

Herco Kruik is a tour guide and a freelance writer in Rotterdam.